Monday, April 23, 2007

Caesar's Palace - Celine Dion

Celine Dion is not exactly at the top of my list of "singers I push the scan button in my car and hope to hear." Still, she's got pipes and I do like some of her songs. Somehow, DB knows people. I don't ask, he just does. he got us in for a private tour of Caesar's Palace where Celine does her show. The tour was a technical one. It was given by the front of house guy and I think a staging director. This was a very enlightening tour. I enjoyed it very much. What I enjoyed the most was when at the end they played a couple of cuts from her DVD they'll be releasing this fall. They cranked up the system, displayed the unmixed, and unedited show on the big stage screen and I could hardly stand it. The sound was amazing. A 5.1 room with truly enveloping sound. Five million dollars worth of sound system had better sound that good! It did. Her voice was strictly mixed to the center while everything else was left/right/sub and rear channels mostly for delay and fx. We got to see the show later that night. It was very enjoyable. She holds nothing back, and gives it her all. I took a lot of pictures on the tour and I thought I'd share them along with a few comments.

Here's the huge poster outside the theater.

Here's the front of house position. It's a digital board, of course, and it is linked to a Pro Tools rig where sound effects and other tracks are mixed with the live performance. Plus they record many but not all of the shows. This is useful for new musicians and substitute dancers to learn the material without a rehearsal.

Up the stairs and off of stage left is the monitor mixing area. The rack unit in the back is all for Celine's voice. It travels with her. If she sings at the Grammy's or something, it goes with her to keep her sound consistent. It is entirely analog. Behind it is the wireless director. Yes, wireless director. I wasn't allowed to take pictures of that, they don't want the frequencies getting out!

This is a shot of the stage and front of the house seats from just around the corner of the monitor desk.

A picture of the house from the "cheap seats." I believe they cost around $75/show. You can see the Front of House position. We got to sit in the row behind it for the show that night. Those seats were a little more than $75!

Another picture, showing the hight of the room. It seats just over 4000 people. They consistently put over 95% capacity in each night.

Now, walking around the back, here is the a spot and the area where the director and light controls sit.

This is the directors spot. Nothing to fancy but the funny thing about this, and the reason I took the picture is the monitor on the left. It is a static stage view that has sharpie outlines on the screen. The rectangles show where the trap doors on the stage are. This way, they know not to open it until it is clear of a stray dancer.

Now we're on the catwalks. Access to a lot of interesting stuff. Here we're above the stage looking down at the front. We're 90+ feet up!

And another view of the grid. It took a minute for me to feel secure walking around up there!

Up above the stage now, this is a swing that is lowered from way above the stage during a show. There are three of them and three girls descend from the ceiling in the middle of the song, come all the way down to the floor and start swinging. Then they're pulled back up by the end of the song. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it.

Now we're up a level above the previous pictures. It's dark up here so these pictures aren't the best. What you're seeing is a web of cables that run all the curains and props that open, close, move across the stage, etc. The are attached to....

...these motors. I think they said there were forty of them on each side of the stage.

If you have an event at Caesar's and you want to broadcast or record it, here's where you come and plug in. We're down under the stage now. To our right are load-in doors. The problem is, they made the loading dock too small and obstructed so no one can use these hookups.

And here's the Green Room. It is set up differently for Celine than for Elton John, who does Monday/Tuesday shows, and different again for someone else who may come in. Jerry Seinfeld was coming in soon after we were there. Now THAT would have been fun.

Of course, the Green Room isn't so green...

The door next to the green room houses the brains of the digital FOH board and this Pro Tools recording rig. They record 84 channels. Notice the modified G5 at the bottom.

This is an area back stage where the dancers can practice. Not a lot of room, but they make the best of it. They have exercies and warm up equipment in there too.

What we're looking at here are special effects areas. Not that interesting below stage, but here you can see where stairs and a tree are "stored" before they are "launched" up onto stage.

It's hard to see, but we're under the stage looking at the front seats from the bass player's position. The bass player can view the stage only through the mesh in the steps. In fact, the drummer, guitar players, and keyboard players all play under the stage. They are revealed in the show via a back light so that the audience can see them vaguely through the mesh.

One interesting thing is that the players under the stage cannot see the piano player/conductor, so they're fed his image on a closed-circuit TV. Each player can also tap a switch with his foot and talk with the director or any other musician if there is a problem.

They use "real" drums and electronic drums.

It's hard to tell what this is, but this is an aux perc stage that is cabled to the ceiling. It comes down from above stage during the show, some one plays on it, then it returns back above.

And finally, the hats, with "Dion" labeled in the middle.